- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 3, 2011

The current owner of a 1949 Cadillac knows how his car came to be 58 years old with less than 40,000 miles on the odometer.

The explanation Randy Denchfield received involved Franklin Fisher who reportedly was the chief illustrator for the National Geographic magazine. The tale is told that Mr. Fisher was chauffeur-driven and on Jan. 19, 1949, purchased a suitable motor car from Capitol Cadillac, when the dealership was located in the District on 22nd Street Northwest.

The Cadillac he selected was an all-black 62 Series four-door sedan. The big car weighed 3,956 pounds and rode on a lengthy 126-inch wheelbase which provided occupants of the handsome car a stately ride. That particular model was by far the most popular Cadillac in 1949 with a total of 37,977 manufactured. Each one carried a base price of $3,050.

Into each 1949 Cadillac General Motors installed the first overhead-valve V-8 engine offered by the division. The 331-cubic-inch V-8 engine developed 160 horsepower, which easily propelled the heavy car with Mr. Fisher in the back seat.

Mr. Denchfield was told that Mr. Fisher died in 1953 and that his Cadillac was left parked in an underground garage. Mr. Denchfield says that for the next two decades the car was insured for one day each year so it could be driven on what is believed to be the original rubber to the inspection station for its annual safety inspection and maintenance check.

In 1973 the widow of the original owner died and the Cadillac was sold to its second owner, who had great plans for the elegant car. They turned out to be unfulfilled plans. After spending 33 more years in storage, the Cadillac came to Mr. Denchfield’s attention and he purchased it in November 2005.

The first order was to get the long-dormant car on a truck andhaul it from Vienna to a garage where it could receive a thorough physical examination. Fresh, clean gasoline, oil and coolant replaced the stagnant fluids that had been in the car after the gasoline tank and radiator both had been boiled out. To help get the big engine off to a smooth-running start, the carburetor was rebuilt. On the theory that stopping is as important as starting, Mr. Denchfield replaced the entire brake system. Mr. Denchfield selected white sidewall radial tires to replace the original 15-inch bias-ply tires.

The interior of the spacious Cadillac is a virtual time capsule. Nothing shows any signs of wear and typical of the era, accessories, even on a Cadillac, were few. Mr. Denchfield points out the optional push-button AM radio, the heater and the turn-signal indicators.

There is also plenty of room for Mr. Denchfield’s left foot because there is no clutch on the car with an automatic Hydramatic transmission.

From the left, the gear selector indicates the car is in Neutral-Drive-Low-Reverse. There is no separate parking gear.

While sitting behind the three-spoke steering wheel, Mr. Denchfield has a commanding view of the 110 mph speedometer, a speed he believes is attainable. The view through the two-piece windshield and on down the long engine hood dramatically concludes with a stylish chrome-plated hood ornament.

The 1949 model was the last year that Cadillac had a two-piece windshield. It was, however, the second year of the famous tail fins that would continue through the 1964 model.

Mr. Denchfield plans to maintain his Cadillac in the original condition and is amazed at how well the car has been preserved. “Try to find a car this old with the original paint,” he challenges.

In the meantime, he realizes that like any thoroughbred, his Cadillac needs to be exercised and he is always eager to give his car some road therapy because, he says, “It’s a fine-driving car.”

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